“Are you the “angry” or the “approachable” academic?”

When will we have produced enough research outputs, articles, frameworks and models? How many people need to cite our work, how many research grants, how many national reviews and inquiries must we sit on until we are “allowed” to have a voice? I want to know how many promotions, how many conferences to attend, how many books I need to publish…is there a certain PBRF (Performance-Based Research Fund) level I need to reach before those in the academy, ally or not will release the need to tell me how I must be or not be too Māori…whatever that means?

When I’ve written 30 articles will people choose their words more carefully and keep their subtle micro aggressive racism to themselves? Will they know I don’t need to hear how I need to choose my battles carefully? As if I haven’t been well versed in that – how exhausted I am already for being called an angry Māori woman and a man hater for daring to question those in authority about our mana (power and authority) as women. Or how I’m too Māori for te ao Pākehā (the world of non-Māori in Aotearoa) and not Māori enough for some in our world – so not fitting in anywhere has meant I have become apt at choosing my battles!!! When will they realise I have been making sure non Māori feel comfortable while I sit in the most uncomfortable situations possible holding back my tears.  I feel like screaming, eyes rolling to the back of my head.  “How dare you tell me how to play the game.  I’ve had to play it my whole life!  It is my actual lived reality, my identity, my reality is not just some words in a journal or lecture.  Auē te kūaretanga hoki!!(Oh the ignorance).  Ooops I must remember not to be too “vocal” , I know I need to “keep the bigger picture in mind”.  So I suppress the mamae (hurt), bury the riri (anger) deep down, swallow the rūpahu (lies) and smile through gritted teeth. I have been well trained in the smile and nod, making jokes to ease the tension – waiting for a moment on my own so I can cry and karanga (call) out to my tūpuna (ancestors )!!!

Waiting for a moment to reflect on how I’m not strong enough for academia…”I will never make it here”. Wondering if they would’ve said such things if I was a tane (man)? Am I too much of an activist? What the actual f**k am I doing here? Getting a PhD so I can spend more time in this toxic place – work my way up the scholarly ladder – for what? Plenty of snakes waiting to pull you down while they leverage off your mahi (work), your Māori tick the boxness. Write articles for the already converted to read, preach to the choir at conferences? Take the hits with mana – not letting them see how much their words and actions against my people hurt my heart! Reflecting and realising that no matter how much I love teaching, how it fills my kete (bag – metaphoric for heart), I do not have the kaha (strength), the maiatanga (bravery) to withstand the overwhelming resistance to us that remains.

I ponder how our amazing wāhine o mana (prestige and status) academics do it! Is their suit of armour that I have mistaken for scary and intimidating made up of layers and layers of experiences where they too have gone home and cried, so hurt, so disillusioned, so wary – only to get back up and keep chipping away to pave a way forward for us to keep the light ahead. I feel bad for wallowing like this I am just a fledging academic who is already feeling burnt out. A PhD is a privilege, a privilege I feel that weighs on me like a burden that leads to a pathway to more battles I am not sure I am built for.

I would prefer to take my anger, my passion, my energy and channel it into my whānau (family), my hapū (collection of whānau who share the geographical location and ancestor), my iwi (collection of hapū who share an eponymous ancestor and geographical location)! I do not write that on the forms for funding or scholarships because I know that is what they want to hear! I mean it with will all my being. My tūpuna, my people are the reason I can take the knocks and get back up to fight another day – they are my strength, my reason why.  I can be an activist, I can be angry, I can be approachable, I can cry, I can think about the bigger picture as a whole, as a collective, all without withholding who I really am.  I would prefer to play the game with my people, who could actually care less about the articles, the conferences or the promotions.  Not that they need me to bring home some fancy framework or model because what I have realised is, it is me who needs them.

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